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Does hooliganism need to be tempered?

There’s a saying that you may have heard of before.

‘There’s always one bad egg’.

Whilst for the most part, this is true, it shouldn’t mean that we have to accept it and move on.

When it comes to football fans, the saying remains relevant. Every club will have those that don’t care for crossing the line between friendly rivalry and genuine hate for one another.

We don’t even need to look at seasons gone by to find examples of when this occurs.

Aston Villa and Birmingham City are fierce rivals and this season, they faced off against each other in two West Midlands derbies in the English second division.

Villa claimed bragging rights in both contests, running out 4-2 winners at home in November and 1-0 winners at St. Andrews in March.

But the second match brought about one of the most disgusting acts we have ever seen on a football field.

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, with his back turned, was attacked by a Birmingham fan and copped a wild right haymaker that sent him crashing to the floor.

Fortunately, not only was Grealish unharmed by the attack, but he didn’t get up and try to exact revenge on the fan. The incident was quickly brought to a halt when Villa players and ground stewards stepped in and restrained him.

Grealish had the last laugh, scoring the winner and seeing his side home as victors. But it was a dark day for football, showcasing that some idiots that we thought were a thing of the past had slipped through the cracks.

Two more recent instances took place in the Champions League semi finals. After Ajax’s 1-0 win against Tottenham, some Spurs fans were seen throwing punches and beer bottles at Ajax fans in the middle of a London street.

Similarly, a few thousand kilometres west in beautiful Barcelona, some locals were attacked by Liverpool fans who, inexplicably, began dumping them into a nearby fountain.

Perhaps the most disgusting act of hooliganism seen this season was from the Southampton vs Cardiff City fixture earlier this year.

The match took place very soon after the extremely tragic death of Cardiff City signing Emiliano Sala, who died on a plane flight to Cardiff from former club, Nantes in France.

Sala’s death brought the football world together in mourning but for some, it was merely a chance to tear it open again.

In this video, a Southampton fan can be seen making plane gestures to the travelling Cardiff fans, a deplorable act which was met with much criticism online. Southampton have vowed to ban the fans who made these gestures.

Now, there’s no problem with being passionate about your soccer club. There’s also no problem with having fun on an away trip. But it’s these moments when people seem to just want to create problems and when that happens, it’s not good for anyone.

Granted, these hooligans don’t represent their club’s entire fanbase, but they do represent their club. These Liverpool fans can be seen laughing and mocking the local people of Barcelona and whilst they may feel they’ve done nothing wrong, they’re contributing to the image that their club has across the globe.

This isn’t solely aimed at these Liverpool fans either. Other clubs certainly do it and the same thing occurs to them.

Hooliganism can positively contribute to the soccer image across the globe. When done right.

There will always be one, two or maybe more who feel the need to commit such condemnable acts. But if clubs can start taking more serious action against these people, like Southampton did, it will demotivate those thinking of doing something similar.

It will show the club in a more positive light, show that they don’t stand for such acts and in general, it will allow hooliganism to adapt to the now and become, again, a more positive influence on soccer society.

All good things take time. But the more times we see such incidents, the more we wish we could hit the fast forward button into a time when these acts occur less.

Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

Is the time finally right for Australia to host the FIFA World Cup?

In a story that caught the eyes of the Australian football community last week, sport and government officials are said to be planning a bid to host the 2030 or 2034 FIFA World Cup down under.

The idea to host the world’s biggest sporting event in Australia is a key part of a strategy that looks to bring a selection of major events to the country, on the back of Brisbane securing the 2032 Olympic Games.

FA CEO James Johnson explained that the governing body has not yet decided to bid for the World Cup, but suggested it is a part of the vision they have for the game.

“It’s an aspiration (hosting the World Cup), that’s part of our vision,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The next time I think we could realistically host it is 2034 because 2026 is in North America, 2022 is in Asia, 2030 – I think – will go to Europe or South America. There’s an opportunity to bring the World Cup back to Asia, the Asia-Pacific area, in 2034.”

A factor which should strengthen Australia’s case to be the home of a future World Cup is the hosting of the upcoming Women’s World Cup in 2023.

In a pattern which Australia is hoping to follow, Canada hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and used it as a stepping stone to eventually win the right to host part of the 2026 World Cup, alongside Mexico and USA.

Australia, alongside co-hosts New Zealand, are set to sell a record number of tickets for the 2023 tournament.

FIFA have opened an office in Australia to assist with the dealings in the build-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which gives FA access and the opportunity to open dialogue with FIFA administrators and pursue their future ambitions.

The FA CEO knows however, it is imperative that Australia delivers a world class tournament to stand any chance of winning the right to host a future World Cup.

“What I can say is we’ve got an opportunity with the 2023 Women’s World Cup – I think we will deliver an outstanding tournament. If we can deliver the best ever Women’s World Cup tournament, it does put you in a good position to take on more FIFA competitions,” Johnson said.

Australia was awarded the 2023 Women’s World Cup under a new FIFA voting process, which is also set to give the country more of a chance to win a further vote this time around in 2030 or more likely 2034.

Under Australia’s previous World Cup bid in 2010, they secured a singular vote from FIFA’s council.

However, the new voting method gives all 211 national member associations a chance to vote, rather than the previous secretive process which was conducted by FIFA council members.

Australia may have further success with this system due to the transparent nature of it and minimization of influence from FIFA’s top dogs.

One of those head honchos is Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, who has steered the ship in the organisation after replacing Sepp Blatter in 2016.

Johnson believes Infantino’s approach to competitions would mean Australia is going to have to find a partnering country for any future bid for a World Cup.

“If you look at the way Gianni is wanting to run his competition strategies, he wants cross-nation competitions. I don’t see any future World Cups being run by one country,” said Johnson.

“It is something that would need to be done with other countries in the region, both in the Asia and probably Oceania region.”

FA have previously held discussions with Indonesia about hosting a World Cup and they, alongside New Zealand, are the most likely candidates to partner with Australia if they bid.

Sharing the bid with another country like Indonesia will have its benefits, such as improving relations between both countries and also halving the costs of an expensive exercise.

There will be difficulties that need to be worked out, but this may be Australia’s best chance to host a World Cup in the foreseeable future.

Channel 10 and Paramount+ have hit the ground running

Channel 10 and Paramount have hit the ground running by promoting the A-League to both casual fans and bolted-on supporters, and Australian football will only continue to benefit from their commitment towards promoting the beautiful game.

Fans are already relishing the increased accessibility created by a new broadcast deal. To watch all the A-League games previously, it would cost $25 a month for a Kayo Sports basic subscription, compared to the $9 a month a fan will pay next season for a Paramount+ subscription.

Paramount+ has created an ingenious way to win over A-League members through collaboration with their clubs. The offer – with assistance from Australian Professional Leagues (APL) – subsidises and reduces the cost of a subscription to Paramount+ for A-League members and is a winner with nothing but positive feedback from supporters. Currently, the best was an early bird offer from Melbourne Victory for $60 a year (which has now expired), however most clubs are offering a yearly subscription for around $75.

This has helped alleviate fears that there are too many platforms to watch football, and that costs could become too high. This move by ViacomCBS will certainly garner goodwill and positivity from the people who make up the backbone of A-League support.

While Foxtel was a great partner to the A-League for many years, which allowed an Australian top-flight league to stay relatively stable during its tenure as a broadcaster, in recent years football in Australia has stagnated. The ability to introduce the A-League to not just sports fans, but also casual fans is the biggest strength of the partnership between the league and Channel 10.

Studio 10 featured an interview with Adelaide players Stefan Mauk and Kusini Yengi, and we are surely going to see more of these exclusives featured as we approach the beginning of the A-League regular season. We are already seeing cross-promotion of the A-League through their other shows and news programs. Melbourne Victory’s former talismanic striker Archie Thompson is appearing on Celebrity Masterchef, in a crossover attempt to win over casual viewers. When the A-League season begins, you can only imagine how this coverage will expand and feature in the channel’s line-up.

The coverage of football in Channel 10’s news bulletins and programs has changed recently. The A-League has never seen transfers and news being prioritised in the way they are now on a free-to-air commercial station, and this can only be good for the game. Each night the network makes up around 17% of all TV viewership Australia-wide, and the possibilities for cross-promotional activity have only just scratched the surface. 10 News First regularly draws over 500,000 people for their nightly show, and introducing A-League stars with the league itself to these viewers can produce growth and exposure like Australian football has never seen before.

The new broadcast deal for next season is an opportunity for the A-League to refresh itself, and ViacomCBS are certainly giving it their all to ensure this happens. Channel 10 appears to be going all-in on ensuring the opportunity to market Australian football to a new audience is not being wasted. A challenge for the A-League and Channel 10 will be finding a way to reach the large number of lapsed fans who have stopped following the A-League for various reasons.

The next step for Paramount+ and 10 is ensuring they have the right broadcast team in place for games.  Fox Sport’s A-League commentators have been maligned in recent years, however there are passionate and skilled play-by-play announcers who are waiting to be picked up. Simon Hill is currently freelancing for Optus Sport and would be a shrewd pickup as lead announcer for A-League games. Rumours of his acquisition by 10 circulated earlier this year, and he is proven quality who is dedicated and knowledgeable about Australian football.

Australian football could see a change in fortune if ViacomCBS can continue to expand upon this level of promotion for the A-League. By engaging new fans, ensuring lapsed fans are reached, and continuing to offer value to the committed and faithful, Channel 10 and Paramount+ can build upon the strong foundations that they have already laid before the season has even kicked off.

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